The mountain village of Istalif has enchanted travellers for centuries. Babur waxed lyrical about the wine parties held in its gardens, while British officers enjoyed its shady slopes during their first occupation of Kabul. Today it is a popular spot for weekend daytrips for Kabulis and expats alike, coming for the tremendous scenery and the famous blue pottery made in the village.

Istalif clings to the slopes of the Koh Daman mountains north of Kabul, giving splendid views across the Shomali Plain. This fertile region has traditionally been the breadbasket of Kabul, or perhaps its fruit bowl, for the villages are renowned for their grapes, cherries, figs and mulberries. The Shomali Plain suffered grievously in the recent years of war. Its wide spaces are ideal for armoured warfare, and dead tanks still litter the landscape. The Taliban took particular trouble to subdue the plain and its mainly Tajik population. In 1999 a scorched earth campaign displaced around 140,000 residents, destroying houses and


To Pul-e Khumri (65km); Kunduz (172km); Mazar-e Sharif (267km)

Jan gal ak

Massoud's tomb H

Salang Pass ^ (3363m)

To Khawak Pass (65km); An joman y Pass (80km)


Dal an Sang Gulbahar


Bagram (US Army & NATO)

To Barr (50km)



Koh Daman


Bcmd-e Sarobi

Shomali Plain

Kabul International Airportp-%


Hajigak Pass (3700m)




To Jalalabad (54km); Torkham (128km)

Unai Pass (3300m)

To Ghazni (68km); Kandahar (420km),

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